Episcopal church faces another showdown over gays

CHICAGO – The U.S. Episcopal Church is headed for another showdown over homosexuality in a rift that has already shaken the worldwide Anglican church family to which it belongs, and threatens even more division.

The next flashpoint will occur in an unlikely place — Columbus, Ohio — where the Episcopal Church’s triennial general convention will have to confront the issue again, and may even have to decide whether a second openly gay person should be made a bishop. While the meeting does not take place until June, developments have already begun to play out.

Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, said in a recent BBC interview his church “is not just going to settle down quietly into being a federation. My anxiety about it is that if (the church family) is broken we may be left with even less than a federation.”

The faith has been in turmoil since 2003 when its American branch ordained the first openly gay bishop in 450 years of Anglican history.

The Episcopal Church is one of several national churches, under the spiritual authority of the archbishop of Canterbury, making up the 77-million-member worldwide Anglican family or “communion.” Its history dates to colonial times when what became the United States broke away from British rule and in the process the Church of England.

While the word “schism” has been tossed about in relation to what’s happening in the worldwide church, a more precise term being used these days is to “walk apart,” according to Mark Sisk, the Episcopal bishop of New York.